Hazards for Urban Birds
Birds provide city eco-systems with a diverse range of services. They cross-pollinate plants, distribute seeds, and eat billions of insects every year. While these activities help to create and maintain a healthy and more affluent urban environment, birds also provide many urbanites with a crucial sense of connection to our shared habitat. Avifauna and their wondrous activities prove to be a fascination for as many as 60 Million North Americans. This is possibly because we come in contact with birds on a daily basis.
In Vancouver, as with other cities throughout the world, the metropolitan milieu is filled with hazards to birds, such as reflective surfaces, bright lights, and glass windows. Because birds cannot differentiate between glass windows and fly through zones, they often incautiously fly towards them with disastrous results. Bird collisions with buildings are said to be the leading cause of death for migratory birds and the 2nd greatest cause of bird fatalities, aside from habitat destruction. Approximately 100 million to 1 billion migratory birds are killed each year as a direct result of a fatal crash with an urban obstacle. These numbers are expected to grow.
Fortunately, bird rescue organizations such as the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) in Toronto, Project Safe Flight in New York, and various other Lights Out programs throughout North America, are trying to remedy the situation. The Toronto based FLAP is of particular interest because they have been working with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to help educate the general public about these issues. In 2006, FLAP and the ROM staged an exhibition displaying the preserved bodies of nearly 2,000 birds recovered from fatal building impacts in the Toronto area. The list of species on exhibit included warblers, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and wrens to name a few. As a consequence of this collaboration and the goal to educate, FLAP and the ROM have crossed the boundaries of natural history/science with stewardship and the aesthetics of display. What results is a spectacle that is both alluring, because of the diversity in bird plumage, and unpleasant.
To further their mandate of safeguarding and protecting migratory birds from these vulnerabilities, FLAP has also initiated a website dedicated to this cause. On this website, one can find information about how to help an injured bird.
To learn more about FLAP and the potential to set up a similar organization in your area visit: www.flap.org.
Photo by Greg Moneta